My Operating Systems Journey

Pre-2004

I started life out on a PC running DOS and Windows 3.x. This was before I had dial-up, so my memories of it are of me mostly playing with MS Paint and some old games. The box was later upgraded to one running Win95, and I spent most of my time trying out shareware programs. Most of these memories are largely forgettable, and I mourn the opportunities I missed by running a mediocre OS.

 

2004

My first encounter with a Real OS, when I got my first job in Bangalore. Our development environment was Solaris, and I quickly made friends with the sysadmin. There were frequent jaw-dropping moments when I caught vague glimpses of the power of the terminal. I devoured anything the admin could teach me, and was a convert from then on.

2005-2008

This was the experimentation phase, and such joyous days they were. I shipped my computer over to Bangalore and learned to dual-boot. The company I was working for had a well-stocked library, and there were a few Linux publications available that used to (and still do) release a distro in every month’s edition.

The usual process was to get a CD, run home and install it, and then get stuck immediately with something I had no idea about. These were frustrating, but ultimately rewarding days. I had a dial-up connection that I never really could configure, so I had to note down errors on a piece of paper, research them at office the next day, and write down multiple possible fixes to try when I returned.

I tried every distro I could get my hands on, and I never felt at home when I wasn’t using Slackware. This became my primary OS for quite a while. By this time I also had broadband, and life was good.

2008-Present

Once I settled with Slackware, I didn’t experiment much with other distros. But the old restlessness always comes back. I tried FreeBSD on a whim, and had another jaw dropping moment. I’d never seen anything as polished as its Ports system, and I fell in love again.

Then my trusty PC gave up in 2010 and it was time for a new box. I regrettably went with Win7 this time, and went through a brief but active gaming phase. Not wanting to dual boot, I bought a VPS and installed Debian on it. At least I always had a Linux box at my finger tips this way. This was also when I bought my Nokia N900, which runs
Maemo (a spin-off of Debian).

Most recently, I’ve installed Debian in VirtualBox, and I always run it at full screen and do all my work from within it. I also have a test installation of Linux From Scratch, and VirtualBox’s snapshots are a boon here. Debian feels solid, and I’ve never had any problems on it, either on the server or the desktop. I’m quite comfortable as a
sysadmin, but the plan now is to pick up some programming skills. I’ve got books on Assembly, C and Scheme, and I’m going through them in whatever order pleases me.